Published by: Great Northern Games
# of Players: 2 to 6
Council of Blackthorn uses little in terms of components, but the components that are provided work great for the gameplay. The central game board has the same art that is used on the box cover and has areas for each faction's influence track. There is plenty of space provided and the center can be used for a bank of influence tokens. Each player will get 4 character tokens to place on each track. These are made of your standard cardboard punch out material. Each player will also receive a thick cardboard character sheet that gives backstory and the character's special abilities. There are 4 dice, each in a color of one of the four factions. Great Northern Games did a great job of making sure the colors were very different so that color blind players would have no issues. The rule book illustrates the main points of the game and explains everything in detail. After reading the rule book once, a player should be able to play the game with little to no error. The cards provided for the game are your standard card stock and have art similar to that on the box. The components for Council of Blackthorn while simple, provide what is needed for the game.
Council of Blackthorn has players taking turns playing ally and building cards to gain influence with the game's 4 factions. After 3 factions have had someone gain top out on influence, the round will finish and players will total up influence and treason. The player with the most treason is beheaded and can not win. The remaining player with the most influence points wins the game. A starting player will be selected by rolling a die and whoever rolls the highest gets first player. Starting with that player, each player will pick a character and take the tokens and character info board. Each player will place a character token on each of the 4 faction tracks. Some characters will start ahead on a given faction based on their character info board. Each player is given 5 money, 5 faction cards and 3 treason cards. At the center of the board will be a pool of all the influence tokens (victory point tokens) that players will earn during the game.
The starting player will be the Right hand of the king and will roll all 4 faction dice. Starting with that same player, each will player will take a turn. There are 5 steps to a player's turn. First they will complete any buildings that they played on the previous turn. The player can then use 1 action from their character or one of their buildings. The player will then play a faction card that will be either an ally, a building or a whispers card. Ally cards are one time use cards that will be discarded at the end of the turn. Buildings will be played in front of the player sideways to note that it is under construction. Whispers are a special action card that give the player a level in one of the factions and then you will identify who is highest on each of the faction tracks. That player will receive a treason card for each track they are highest on. Also the player with the most buildings will receive a treason card. The player who played the whisper card is immune to receiving treason cards from this card. If a player plays a ally or building card, they will move up on the influence track of the faction the card is from. The amount you move up is based on the die roll for that faction for the round. If a 1 or 2 is rolled, the player will move up that many spots on that influence track. If the die roll is 0, the player will not move up on an influence track, but the player will choose another player and that player will have to take a treason card from the current player's treason cards randomly. If the die shows a 3, the active player will move up 3 levels on that faction, but they must also draw 2 treason cards from the treason deck. Buildings will have a criteria of a certain factions influence that you must be at or higher to build. Allies have a similar cost but only to use their special action that is listed on their card. You can play a faction card that you do not have the cost for and will receive the dice effect, but will not get the text effect and will be discarded at the end of the turn.
After you play a card and resolve the effects, you can discard a card and then draw back up to 5 faction cards. You will then score influence tokens for factions you have control of. Having control means that you are the highest on that factions influence track. After that is done, the player to the left will take their turn and keep going till each player has taken a turn. Once the round is over, the right hand of the king passes to the player on the left and they start the next round if 3 factions have not been maxed out on influence. At the end of the game players will total up influence from their position on each faction track, points from buildings, and influence tokens earned during the game. Before you declare a winner, each player will total up the points from their treason cards. The player with the most treason points is out of the game. From the remaining players, the player with the highest influence wins the game.
I found Council of Blackthorn to be unique and fun. The treason system and eliminating the player with the most treason is very well done and adds for a tense, entertaining moment at the end of the game. The treason system also helps from one player possibly running away with the game because they most likely have the most treason as well. Even with a higher player count, Council of Blackthorn plays fairly fast once everyone is familiar with the gameplay. I found it very easy to learn and teach. While most of the components are simple, they did not need to be fancy. I was happy they provided a scoring pad to total up scores with at the end of the game. There was plenty of player interaction, but some may dislike the take that effect and feel picked on. I would recommend this to anyone who likes social games and wants something different. I wouldn't recommend it to someone who dislikes player's attacking each other. Council of Blackthorn will provide an entertaining hour or so to your game night. I am keeping it in my collection and look forward to playing more.
+Unique social game
+Lots of player interaction
+Easy to learn and teach
+Score pad to total scores at the end of the game
- Some may not like player's attacking each other
- No flash to the components